Ja Magazine, Tshepiso Mabula

[intro]‘Otlo nyalwa ke mang?’ is the question every young black girl is bound to answer at some point in her life. It is the reassurance to one’s parents that their child is not a lefetwa (one who missed out on marriage).[/intro]

In many African homes the institution of marriage is one that is considered to be sacred, and the most joyous time in a girl child’s life is the day of her traditional wedding. On that day the humble makoti (the bride) dances timidly next to her new husband while being careful not to show too much personality, lest her in-laws judge her good standing as a wife.


The perfect makoti is said to be one who is passive, one who waits silently for her next instruction from ubaba’sekhaya (the man of the household). If a young girl is perceived to be too forward, educated or opinionated, or if she is seen to be doing things that are not ladylike (smoking, drinking) or if she ‘knows too much’, she is considered unsuitable for marriage.


This series of images seeks to question the idea of a perfect makoti in black communities, and whether patriarchy is perpetuated by traditional laws in a marriage. Using a series of studio portraits this series questions whether women still have power over how they are perceived and whether they have power in their own households.


All images courtesy of Tshepiso Mabula
This photo series originally appeared in Ja Magazine.